Quaker Valley Digital School District
Early Effects and Plans for Future Evaluation
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Funded by an award from the state of Pennsylvania, Quaker Valley School District launched a Digital School District initiative, a program to equip every student in the district from 3rd through 12th grade with a laptop computer, set up wireless networks in all district buildings, and provide wireless Internet connections in all of the students’ homes. The program commenced with the 2001-2002 school year. In the second year of implementation, the district requested the RAND Corporation to produce a summative evaluation of the initiative and a research design for a future, comprehensive evaluation.
RAND research included a review of existing literature on the subject of educational technology in the classroom, and review of existing project implementation, demographic, and achievement data in the district. In addition, RAND conducted analyses of qualitative data collected during a three-day site visit to the district, including interviews and focus groups with district administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students.
Research indicated increased awareness and competence with technology, as well as increases in student motivation and engagement. Use of the laptop computers was widespread in subject areas readily applicable to computer use, such as English and social studies, but more limited in other areas, such as math. RAND also found the initiative suffered from limited integration of the technology into the curriculum, lack of sufficient technological support, frequent laptop breakdowns, reliability problems with home connections, and improper use by a small number of students.
As a conceptual framework for further evaluation of the initiative, RAND devised a Theory of Change based on the district’s initial proposal and anticipated outcomes of the program, and refined it to include findings from the literature and the first two years of implementation. This Theory of Change became the basis for developing a set of research questions and a table of potential data sources for measuring the effects of the initiative. The report concludes with suggestions for analyses that could be performed on the data, along with a discussion of various attributes of the Quaker Valley program that limit the potential strength of these analyses.